Debate over Walker Co. crematory scandal memorial - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Debate over Walker Co. crematory scandal memorial

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LAFAYETTE, GA (WRCB) -- A decade has passed since the Tri-State Crematory scandal rocked the small town of Noble, Georgia in Walker County.

Remains of more than 300 bodies were never cremated. Instead, Brent Marsh sent cement dust to relatives and piled the bodies on top of one another.

The discovery was made in February 2002. Marsh was charged with 787 counts of theft, corpse abuse, and fraud. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Following the discovery, the state gave Walker County money to build a memorial honoring those victims, but still nothing has been done. Saturday, some families involved met with the county,

The state granted Walker County $45,000 to build the memorial. Initial ideas were put to the side, but now they are being brought back to the forefront. The only problem is there are a lot of strong, differing opinions over how these people should be honored.

Many agree it's time the memorial is built.

"This has been unacceptable," one family member said during the meeting.

There's great debate, however, over how it will appear.

"But this is a special circumstance, is it not?" D&S Monuments asked during the meeting.

Some families don't want their loved ones name on it, while others do. Some want the agencies that assisted with recovery listed. Others do not.

It's a passionate topic for family members of the deceased, like Leatha Shropshire.

"I owe my mother my life and I think this is the least I can do for her," Leatha Shropshire said.

She's been persistent about building the memorial since the county got the money.

"There's no closure, but hopefully it will hive me some kind of peace and it will give those that were there some of their dignity back because I feel like that was taken," Shropshire said.

She says she's upset the $45,000 sat untouched in the county's general fund for the last decade.

"It's juts been sitting there because there's never been a conclusion on how it should be spent," Walker County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell said.

Commissioner Heiskell says there was talk of a memorial park for a while, but no land was ever acquired. She says these families just recently came to her requesting a monument.

"I'd like to please those people it represents. Otherwise, I'd already be through with it," Commissioner Heiskell said.

Another obstacle is that the three designs presented Saturday didn't all meet the guidelines set by Tennessee-Georgia Memorial Park and have to be tweaked.

"It was a horrific event, but I want to do it in a way that represents everyone," Tennessee-Georgia Memorial Park Director Vanessa McKeehan said.

Commissioner Heiskell says she'll pick the design this week and start sending out letters to families of the deceased to determine who wants their loved one's names on it.

Her goal is to have the entire monument completed within two months, but knows getting consent from all those families could push progress back.

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